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Clip-On Thermal Scopes

Best Clip-On Thermal Scopes 2021: Top Picks & Buying Guide

Shopping for a clip-on thermal scope for your hunting rifle? 

If you have been looking for a clip-on thermal scope then you’ve come to the right place. 

Clip-on thermal scopes are designed to quickly clip onto your existing day scope. A clip-on thermal scope allows you to quickly switch between normal and thermal optics without removing your riflescope.

The biggest advantage of a clip-on is convenience. Instead of constantly switching between your day scope and thermal scope, you keep your day scope on the rifle and attach the thermal clip-on only when you need to see through bushes, smoke, dust, or some other obstruction.

A thermal clip-on is also handy when it gets dark.

A clip-on thermal scope is versatile in that you can also use it as a standalone monocular to survey your surroundings.

By the way, you don’t need to re-zero your riflescope when you attach or remove the clip-on.


What’s in This Buying Guide?

In this buying guide, we review and compare the best clip-on thermal scopes you can buy online. We also give you tips on what to look for when shopping for a clip-on thermal scope.

If you are looking for a normal thermal scope, look at our reviews of the best cheap thermal scopes

If you wonder whether to buy a thermal or night vision scope, read on the differences between thermal and night vision

Top 5 Clip-on Thermal Scopes

Pulsar Core FXQ50 BW
  • Pulsar Core FXQ50

  • Best lightweight
  • Resolution:
    384x288

  • Refresh rate:
    50 Hz

  • Magnification:
    4.1-8.2x

  • Wireless remote:
    yes

  • Waterproof:
    yes

  • Battery life:
    4hrs

  • Weight:
    14.1 ounces

Armasight by FLIR Zeus
  • FLIR Zeus 336

  • Best budget
  • Resolution:
    336x256

  • Refresh rate:
    60 Hz

  • Magnification:
    3x optical; 2x, 4x digital

  • Wireless remote:
    yes

  • Waterproof:
    yes

  • Battery life:
    4hrs

  • Weight:
    28.2 ounces

Armasight by FLIR Apollo-Pro
  • FLIR Apollo-Pro

  • Best optical performance
  • Resolution:
    640x512

  • Refresh rate:
    60 Hz

  • Magnification:
    1x optical; 2x, 4x, 8x digital

  • Wireless remote:
    yes

  • Waterproof:
    yes

  • Battery life:
    7hrs

  • Weight:
    32 ounces

Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR Thermal CL Teo
  • Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR

  • Best Military-Grade
  • Resolution:
    640x480

  • Refresh rate:
    60 Hz

  • Magnification:
    2.5x

  • Wireless remote:
    no

  • Waterproof:
    yes

  • Battery life:
    4hrs

  • Weight:
    24.6 ounces

PRG Defense Anaconda TC50 thermal scope
  • PRG Defense TC50-Micro

  • Best value
  • Resolution:
    384x288

  • Refresh rate:
    50 Hz

  • Magnification:
    1x optical; 2x, 4x digital

  • Wireless remote:
    no

  • Waterproof:
    yes

  • Battery life:
    5hrs

  • Weight:
    15 ounces


Pulsar Core FXQ50 BW Thermal Scope Attachment

Weight is an essential consideration when you are shopping for a clip-on thermal scope. A heavy clip-on will reduce the balance and accuracy of your rifle.

One of the lightest clip-on thermal scopes is the Pulsar Core FXQ50. It weighs just 14.1 ounces.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Good refresh rate.
  • Waterproof.
  • Easy to use and calibrate.
  • Wireless remote control.

Cons

  • Average resolution.
  • No video record/output.

Our Review

The Pulsar Core FXQ50 is perfect for those who want an ultra-light thermal scope attachment. The 384x288 resolution is not the highest you can get, but it should be enough for most hunters.

The FXQ50 includes digital zoom, allowing you to get a closer view of your target. And with a detection range of almost 2,000 yards, you can detect animals from pretty far out.

If the animal is moving, the 50 Hz refresh rate keeps the image smooth, allowing you to track the target easily.

For best results, the manufacturer recommends pairing the FXQ50 with a day scope with magnification between 2x and 5x.

Remember, you can also use the FXQ50 as a handheld monocular. Simply remove it from your rifle and attach the included eyepiece.

The FXQ50 features a 640x480 AMOLED display, which provides a crisp image and large viewing area. Using buttons on the scope, you can adjust image brightness, select one of three calibration modes, and select operating mode.

The FXQ50 clip-on thermal scope also comes with wireless remote control that allows you to adjust certain settings without reaching for buttons on the scope.

Other notable features of the Pulsar Core FXQ50 include adjustable focus, a fully waterproof (IPX7) design, and a wide operating temperature range (-13F to 122F).

The Pulsar Core FXQ50 is compatible with day sights that have a lens diameter between 40mm and 56mm. It comes with a quick-release mount that allows you to remove or attach it to your rifle in seconds.

For power, the Pulsar Core FXQ50 uses two CR123A batteries that provide about four hours of continuous battery life. If you want more battery life, buy an external battery pack.

Issues & Limitations 

The main limitation of the Pulsar Core FXQ50 is its thermal resolution. The 384x288 resolution limits how far you can detect targets and rapidly reduces image quality when you zoom in.

Another downside of the FXQ50 is the lack of a video record or output option. If you'd like to share videos of your hunting adventures with friends or store them for later viewing, the FXQ50 is not for you.

Bottom Line 

The Pulsar Core FXQ50 ideal if your current day scope is already a bit hefty, and you don't want to add too much weight to your rifle.

Armasight by FLIR Zeus Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope

If you are shopping on a budget, we recommend the FLIR Zeus 336x256 clip-on thermal scope. Like other clip-on, you can use Zeus as a handheld monocular thermal imager or mount it on your rifle to turn your day scope into a thermal scope.

Pros

  • Low price.
  • High refresh rate.
  • Bright AMOLED display.
  • Adjustable color palettes.
  • Optical and digital zoom.
  • Video out option.

Cons

  • Lower than average resolution.

Our Review 

Thermal scopes are expensive. If you want to save money while getting decent thermal imaging performance, we recommend the FLIR Zeus 336x256 clip-on thermal scope.

The biggest compromise you'll have to make is on the resolution. The Zeus scope has the lowest thermal resolution among our picks.

This relatively low resolution and the 50mm objective lens diameter limits you to mid-range target detection and tracking.

You can only identify targets a few hundred yards out. To make out exactly which kind of animal it is, you'll need to be even closer, about 100-200 yards depending on its size.

The Zeus 336 has optical (3x) and digital (2x, 4x) zoom, for a total magnification range of 3x-12x. But be careful not to zoom in too much as image quality quickly deteriorates.

Tip: If you want a longer detection distance and higher magnification, there's a wide 75mm version of the Zeus 336 with 5-20x zoom. 

One area where the Zeus 336 does well is tracking moving targets. The high 60 Hz refresh rate maintains a smooth focus when tracking a running boar or deer.

We also love the Zeus 336's crisp high-definition displayThe AMOLED display has a resolution of 800 x 600, ensuring a bright and well-defined image.

Features and settings available with the Zeus 336 include adjustable color palettes or use in a different environment, multiple digital reticles, adjustable brightness, a video out port for use with an external DVR, and adjustable focus for both the objective lens and eyepiece diopter.

Environmental specs include a water-resistant design and an operating temperature of -40°F to +122°F.

Issues & Limitations 

To enjoy the lower price, you have to contend with a lower resolution as well. The 336x256 thermal resolution of the Zeus 336 is the lowest among our picks.

The reduced resolution lowers the detection and recognition range. It also limits how much you can zoom in without the image becoming unrecognizably grainy. So while the Zeus 336 has a max zoom of 12x, you likely won't be able to take full advantage of it.

Bottom Line 

The FLIR Zeus 336 is a great choice if you look for a budget clip-on thermal scope and don't mind a slightly lower than average thermal resolution.


clip on night vision

Do you have a generous budget and are looking for a high-performance clip-on thermal scope? We recommend the FLIR Apollo Pro.

It features the highest resolution and refreshes rate among our top picks. As expected, it's also one of the most expensive.

Pros

  • High resolution and refresh rate.
  • 1x – 8x zoom.
  • Adjustable palettes and reticles.
  • Long battery life.
  • Video out option.
  • Wireless remote control.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Our Review

The FLIR Apollo Pro clip-on is perfect for experienced hunters looking to upgrade their thermal scope.

With a thermal resolution of 640 x 512, it delivers exceptional performance out in the wild. You can detect and recognize animals further out, and the images are brighter compared to lower resolution scopes.

The high resolution also allows you to take advantage of the full zoom range. You can zoom to the max 8x without losing too much in terms of image sharpness.

Tip: If you want an even longer detection range and better zoom performance, get the pricier Apollo Pro LR with a 100mm objective lens. 

The refresh rate of the Apollo Pro is also pretty good. At 60 Hz, you'll have no trouble following moving targets.

To take advantage of all that resolution, refresh rate, and magnification, the Apollo Pro features a high definition 800×600 AMOLED display.

On display, you can adjust image brightness, choose from multiple color palettes, and adjust the reticle's type and color.

The Apollo Pro doesn't just rely on the hardware to provide a good imaging experience. It also has a bunch of algorithms that filter and enhance what you see on display. They include Active Contrast Enhancement, Smart Scene Optimization, and Second Generation Digital Detail Enhancement.

Other features we love include the video out option for those who'd like to connect an external DVR, the long battery life (7 hours with four CR123A batteries), and the wireless remote control.

Issues & Limitations 

The FLIR Apollo Pro is expensive. If you are just starting out, consider buying a cheaper clip-on thermal scope, and then upgrade to this after a few years.

The FLIR Apollo Pro is also not ideal if you are looking for a budget or even a mid-range thermal scope attachment.

Bottom Line 

While pricey, the FLIR Apollo Pro features and capability fully justify its high price tag. We highly recommend it for experience and professional hunters looking for a clip-on thermal scope with serious power.


best clip on thermal scope

Trijicon is a contractor for the US military, supplying them with various optical sights. The Snipe-IR is made to the same exacting military standards as their other products.

It is rugged, durable, and provides dead-on accuracy when hunting.

Pros

  • High resolution and refresh rate.
  • No-shot zero.
  • Video out option.
  • Easy to use thumbstick control.
  • Rugged and waterproof.
  • Includes collimating eyepiece.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Our Review

The Snipe-IR clip-on thermal scope is made with aircraft-grade aluminum. It's strong and rugged, but lightweight. It can withstand rough environments and the recoil from your rifle.

Being a military-grade scope, it is, of course, waterproof.

As for the optics, the Snipe-IR brings the unmatched capability to your day sight. It features one of the highest resolutions and refreshes rates in the market.

A high refresh rate allows you to track and target moving targets with ease – there's lag or stutter. The Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR thermal clip-on combines a 60 Hz refresh rate with a 640x480 resolution to provide some of the best thermal optics you can get in a clip-on.

Also, you get 2.5x zoom with minimal loss in image quality.

Beyond the main optics, the Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR offers lots of advanced features.

One of our favorites is no-shot zero, which makes it easy and quick to zero your scope. The Snipe-IR also comes with a collimating eyepiece that allows you to quickly align your day scope with the thermal scope.

The resolution of the thermal sensor matches that of the 640x480 OLED display, ensuring high image quality.

Another feature we love is the thumbstick control on the side of the scope. It's easier to use and more intuitive than a button.

Other notable features of the Snipe-IR include multiple palettes and a video out option for an external DVR.

As for accessories, the Snipe-IR comes with two CR123 batteries with a total run time of about four hours, a hard case for the scope, and a Mini Picatinny rail mount.

Issues & Limitations 

The Trijicon Snipe-IR is one of the most expensive clip-on thermal scopes in the market. The high price tag's main reasons are the high-end sensor (640x480 resolution, 12 microns) and the military-grade construction quality.

If you are looking for a budget clip-on thermal scope, the Snipe-IR is not it.

Bottom Line 

The Trijicon Snipe-IR is a great choice for serious hunters looking for a clip-on thermal scope with excellent optics and military-level ruggedness.

clip on thermal imager

If you want the best bang for your buck, the Anaconda TC50-Micro by PRG Defense is the best clip-on thermal scope.

It provides good thermal optics at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Good resolution and refresh rate.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Long battery life.
  • Optional WiFi module.
  • Video out option.
  • HD OLED display.

Cons

  • Not ideal for long-range hunting.

Our Review

The Anaconda TC50-Micro is packed with many great features and high-quality thermal optics, for a relatively affordable price.

Let's start with the optics. You get a 384x288, a 17-micron sensor paired to a 50mm objective lens with up to 4x zoom.

These specs are good enough for most hunters.

You get a comfortable 60mm eye relief and a high definition 1024x768 OLED display on the eyepiece end of the scope.

The Anaconda TC50-Micro is compatible with all kinds of day scopes with magnification up to 8x. The scope itself has two levels of digital zoom; 2x and 4x.

The TC50-Micro is one of the lightest clip-on thermal scopes you can get, making it a good choice for hunters who don't want to add too much weight to their rifle.

Despite its compact and lightweight design, it is designed to withstand rough conditions and strong recoil. The TC50-Micro is waterproof.

Battery life from the two CR123 batteries is about 5 hours. You can get up to 44 hours with an external battery pack, which is sold separately.

Another accessory you might want to get is the external WiFi module. It turns the TC50-Micro into a smart scope that you can control from your smartphone.

If you'd like to record video with the TC50-Micro, you'll also need an external DVR.

Issues & Limitations 

If you often hunt in open ranges, the Anaconda TC50-Micro is probably not the right clip-on thermal scope for you.

Given the average 384x288 resolution and 50mm objective lens, you'll detect animals only up to around 500 yards. To recognize which animal it is, track it, and make a successful shot, you'll need to be even closer.

If you do a lot of long-range hunting, we recommend a clip-on with a 640x480 resolution, a 75-100mm objective lens, and 4x or more in zoom.

Bottom Line 

The Anaconda TC50-Micro is a great choice for looking for a well-priced clip-on thermal scope with good optics and build quality.

Benefits of Clip-On Thermal Scopes

clip on thermal imager

If you want, you could certainly buy a full-size thermal scope for your rifle. But if you also make heavy use of your day scope, you'll need to constantly switch between it and the thermal scope once it gets snowy, foggy, dusty, or dark.

Instead of constantly switching between the two, why not add thermal imaging capability to your current day scope?

That's exactly what a clip-on does. It mounts on your rifle in front of your day scope, allowing you to view thermal optics through your day sight.

A clip-on is designed to be easy and quick to mount and remove from the rifle. So when you need to quickly switch to thermal imaging (e.g., if an animal is hard to spot through the bushes, or it becomes foggy), it takes just a couple of seconds to attach the clip-on.

Thermal clip-ons don't need re-zeroing once you've mounted it on your rifle. As long as you've already zeroed your day scope, you are good to go.

Another advantage of clip-on thermal scopes is that they are usually lighter and smaller than a full-size thermal scope. This makes for easier portability and ensures you don't add too much weight to your rifle.

Some clip-on also offers a video recording option via a video-out port and cable. This is handy if you'd like to record your hunts.

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Clip-on Thermal Scope 

clip on thermal scope

Generally, you'd look for the same things in a thermal scope that you look for in a clip-on thermal scope. Here are the most important ones.

Compatibility 

Make sure the clip-on is compatible with your day scope. Size is not really an issue. Clip-on thermal scopes are designed to go with a wide range of day scope lens sizes.

The most important thing to check is magnification. Manufacturers of clip-on scopes will recommend the minimum and maximum zoom of the day scope you can use the clip-on with.

Optics

The most important thing is the thermal capability of the clip-on. How far can it be? How good is the resolution? Can you zoom?
  • Thermal resolution: 384x288 is the recommended minimum for a clip-on thermal scope. With this resolution, image quality is pretty good, and you can detect animals as far as 500 yards. A 640x480 clip-on scope will let you see as far as 1,000 yards, and image quality is excellent for more money.
  • Objective lens size: Get a clip-on with a minimum 50mm objective lens. 50mm is great for close and mid-range hunting. If you do a lot of long-range hunting, get a 75mm or 100mm lens.
  • Zoom: Most thermal clip-on offers up to 4x zoom, with pricier models going as high as 12x. This zoom can be digital zoom only or a combo of optical and digital zoom. The latter is better if you want to zoom in without making the image all grainy.
  • Refresh rate: We highly recommend a 60 Hz refresh rate for hunting instead of a lower 30 Hz frame rate. It eliminates lag when you are moving or tracking a moving animal.

Size and Weight 

A compact and lightweight clip-on is not just good for portability; it also ensures you don't make your rifle too heavy, affecting balance and accuracy.

If your day scope is already on the heavier side, look for a lightweight clip-on thermal scope.

Display

A bright and crisp display is important to easily detect and track animals. We recommend getting a clip-on with a display resolution of at least 640x480. For even better viewing, get an HD display with a higher resolution of 800×600, 1024x768 or higher.

As you check the display, check whether you can adjust the brightness of the display and change color palettes of the thermal image.

Battery Life 

Most clip-on thermal scopes provide around 4-5 hours of battery life using a pair of CR123 batteries. If you want more battery life, your best option is getting an external battery pack.

Check if the manufacturer sells a compatible battery pack separately.

Video Out 

Unlike full-size thermal scopes, most clip-on scopes don't have built-in video recording and streaming. The best alternative they offer is to connect an external digital video recorder (DVR).

If you'd like to record videos of your adventures, make sure the thermal clip-on has a video out option.

Waterproof 

We highly recommend buying a waterproof thermal clip-on. This ensures you can keep hunting through rain and snow. You also don't have to worry if the scope accidentally falls in the water.

Final Verdict: What Is the Best Clip-On Thermal Scope?

Pulsar Core FXQ50 BW Thermal Scope Attachment

Overall, we think the Pulsar Core FXQ50 is the best clip-on thermal scope for most people. It is reasonably priced but offers excellent optics. Besides, it is waterproof and one of the lightest thermal clip-one you can buy.

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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